Car towing weight and width limits
Most cars have a maximum weight of what they can tow. It’s usually listed in the handbook or specification sheet.
Alternatively the vehicle’s gross train weight may be listed on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate on the car. This is normally under the bonnet or inside the driver’s door.
The gross train weight is the weight of the fully-loaded car plus fully-loaded trailer and must not be exceeded.
If your VIN plate doesn’t list a train weight, you should not use your vehicle for towing.
Width and length
The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres. The maximum length is 7 metres for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes (3,500 kilograms).
The following list gives an approximate guide to the nose weights of various types of cars.
Small to medium hatchbacks and saloons – 50kg to 75kg
Large saloons and medium 4x4s or SUVs – 75kg to 100kg
Large 4x4s, SUVs and 4x4 pickups – 100kg to 150kg.
If you exceed your nose weight you can buckle the towbar and car chassis.
If you exceed the manufacturer's rating: It's all your insurers need to invalidate insurance.
Cars not homologated for towing
Cars registered after August 1998 must have a type-approved tow bar fitted.
This is a tow bar manufactured in accordance with 94/20/EC that was part of the European Type Approval directive. This ensures that the tow bar attaches to mounting points on the vehicle specified by the vehicle manufacturer and no-where else. The tow bar must also display a weight rating plate that matches the vehicles maximum towing limit and tow bar down-load (nose weight) limit. Fitting a non-type approved tow bar to a post August 1998 car is illegal.
Also note that Type Approval 94/20/EC covers the maximum that a tow ball can project from the rear of the car and the maximum size drop-plate that can be used to lower the tow ball. Important if you are thinking of adding a bike rack mounting plate, caravan stabiliser bracket
If your car is a import and as such has no towing capacity like a Mazda bongo. Check your VIN plate for train weight to see how much you can tow. If your VIN plate doesn’t list a train weight, you should not use your vehicle for towing.
If you get a tow bar for your car, it needs to be ‘type approved’. This means it meets EU regulations and is designed for your car. A type-approved tow bar will have a label with an approval number and details of the vehicles it’s approved for. If your car was first used before 1 August 1998, your tow bar doesn’t need to be type-approved.
You must have an adequate view of the road behind you. If your caravan or trailer is wider than the rear of the towing vehicle, you may need to fit suitable towing mirrors. If you tow without proper towing mirrors you can be: prosecuted by the police given 3 points on your licence fined up to £1,000
Any trailer weighing over 750 kilograms, including its load, must have a working brake system. Some smaller trailers also have brakes, although these are optional. Any brakes on a trailer or caravan must be in good working order.
You must display the same number plate as your towing car on the trailer. If you tow more than one trailer, fix the number plate to the trailer at the back.
Licences held before 1 January 1997
If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you are generally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnesMAM.
This is the weight of a vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely when it’s being used on the road.
You also have entitlement to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kgMAM.
Licences held from 1 January 1997
If you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997 and have an ordinary category B (car) licence, you can: drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes or 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg
For anything heavier you need to take a category B+E driving test.
From 19 January 2013, drivers passing a category B (car and small vehicle) test can tow:
small trailers weighing no more than 750kg
tow a trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM)
If you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg, when the combined weight of the towing vehicle and trailer is more than3,500kg, you’ll have to pass a further test and get B+E entitlement on your licence.
You’ll then be able to tow trailers up to 3,500kg.
More Information can be found of the NTTA website
Guide to Safe & Legal Towing.
Tel: 01903 854770